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Independent Candidates and Political Representation in India


We estimate the causal effect of independent candidates on voter turnout and election outcomes in India. To do this, we exploit exogenous changes in the entry deposit candidates pay for their participation in the political process, changes that disproportionately excluded candidates with no affiliation to established political parties. A one standard deviation increase in the number of independent candidates increases voter turnout by more than 6 percentage points, as some voters choose to vote rather than stay home. The vote share of independent candidates increases by more than 10 percentage points, as some existing voters switch who they vote for. Thus, independents allow winning candidates to win with less vote share, decrease the probability of electing a candidate from the governing coalition by about 31 percentage points, and ultimately increase the probability of electing an ethnic-party candidate. Altogether, the results imply that the price of participation by independents is constituency representation in government.

Corresponding author
Sacha Kapoor is an Assistant Professor, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Economics H09-22, Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 PA Rotterdam, The Netherlands (
Arvind Magesan is an Associate Professor, University of Calgary, Department of Economics, 2500 University Way NW, Calgary AB, T2N1N4, Canada (
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We thank the editors, three thoughtful reviewers, Victor Aguirregabiria, Maarten Bosker, Branko Bŏsković, Pamela Campa, Benoit Crutzen, Robert Dur, Giovanni Facchini, Jean-Guillaume Forand, Francisco Gonzales, Francesca Jensenius, Ricardo Pique, Anthony Sayers, Dana Sisak, Otto Swank, Scott Taylor, Cecilia Testa, Vincent Rebeyrol, and Yu Wang for their feedback. Miguel Olivo-Villabrille and James Conley provided outstanding research assistance. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:

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